April 2005

Tommy Emmanuel
April 22 – 25, 2005 • Hugh's Room • Toronto
Great balls of fire. Tommy Emmanuel is the Jerry Lee Lewis of the guitar. The Australian virtuoso bounded onto the stage of Hugh’s Room folk club in Toronto last night without introduction, picked up one of his five guitars, and wham-bam, there was a whole lotta shakin' goin’ on. Tommy has got to be the fastest, fieriest, flamboyantest, most fun-loving finger picking guitarist in the West, and maybe the best.

This musical son of the legendary Chet Atkins considers himself a “pop guitar player (“Bach was a pop composer”). He writes and plays tunes that include the sounds of rock, flamenco, boogie, blues, rag and country—you name it. An ear player (says he can’t read music), Tommy has recorded—live and in studio—with the Australian Symphony Orchestra, a program that includes his own compositions as well as Rodrigo’s Guitar Concerto, and Debussy’s Gollywog’s Cake Walk.

In his hands, the acoustic guitar body can get drummed on with both palms, his ring, a snare brush, while the strings get picked, plucked, flailed and strummed at the nut and the bridge to emit cascades of rhythmic clicks, cracks, taps and tones you never hear this side of a pod of whales or at the least an entire African percussion ensemble. This happened on a tune called “Mombassa”. At the heart of his spectacular display, impressive enough as creative use of a guitar, what you hear is Tommy’s sense of melody. His guitar rocks, and his rocking sings, always.

At one point in the two hour performance (which members of the audience punctuated frequently with “We love you Tommy”), he introduced the band: his thumb, the bass player picked a walking line; one of his fingers strummed like a drum; another finger plucked a rhythm, and his remaining fingers — “the lead” — picked out a melody.

Sensitive as he is spectacular, Tommy sang (in a solid, unbreakable voice) two songs from his latest album—endless road—that were deeply touching and grounded the excitement of the evening in a reflective mood. Binn and Moore’s “I Still Can’t Say Goodbye” is about an adult man who still puts on his late father’s hat “still trying to be like him”. Jerry Hubbard’s “Today is Mine has these lines: ”To die a little that I might learn to live/ To take from life that I might learn to give….”

Tommy is giving at Hugh’s Room till Monday, April 25. Let him light you up. Robert Taylor, the 2004 Canadian Fingerstyle Guitar Champ opens for Tommy, and he's a spark. And keep an eye open for The Live Music Report on Tommy’s CD endless road.

We welcome your comments and feedback
• • • • • •
Report and Photograph by
• •
Stanley Fefferman
for The Live Music Report

| Home | Archives | CD Reviews | Photo Galleries | Concert Listings | Contact |

Please contact us to secure permission for use of any material found on this website.
© The Live Music Report – 2005